Trump’s EPA quietly revamps rules for air pollution

The Trump administration has quietly reshaped enforcement of air pollution standards in recent months through a series of regulatory memos.

The memos are fulfilling the top wishes of industry, which has long called for changes to how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the nation’s factories, plants and other facilities. The EPA is now allowing certain facilities to be subject to less-stringent regulations and is letting companies use friendlier math in calculating their expected emissions.

Environmentalists and public health advocates say the memos could greatly increase levels of air pollutants like mercury, benzene and nitrogen oxides. They accuse the EPA of avoiding the transparency and public input requirements that regulatory changes usually go through.

“All of these, individually and taken together, will result in more air pollution and less enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” said Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.

“These were radical departures of current law when they were proposed a decade ago and they’re just as radical today,” he said, referring to the Bush-era efforts, some of which were unsuccessful, to make changes to EPA air programs.

But for the EPA and its supporters, the memos simply bring the agency back to what the relevant laws and regulations are meant to be.

“They address specific concerns that people have had for years, and just make it much simpler for people to comply — especially for existing [facilities] — to make sure they can maintain their plants and replace worn-out components and those types of things, without the threat of enforcement litigation,” said Jeff Holmstead, a former head of the EPA’s air pollution office under the George W. Bush administration who now represents regulated companies at the law and lobbying firm Bracewell.

Bill Wehrum, head of the air office under EPA chief Scott Pruitt, wrote two of the three EPA memos. He recused himself from the third memo, which Pruitt wrote.

The first memo, issued in December, states that the EPA will no longer “second guess” companies’ calculations of their expected pollution output after certain big projects under what is known as New Source Review. Under that program, the EPA reviews the changes made to a facility to decide whether they need to go through the same process as if the facility were newly built.

The December memo effectively means the EPA will usually not take action against a company for its calculations if they turn out to be wrong.

The second memo, issued in January, repeals a Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in.” Under the previous policy, facilities could never be considered “minor” sources of hazardous pollution if they were already considered “major” sources, and subject to much stricter rules.

Now, facilities can be regulated as “minor” if their emissions drop enough.

The third memo allows companies to use a procedure known as “project netting” when applying for permits for major projects under the New Source Review program. That means companies can use a more industry-friendly emissions calculation when they argue that a particular project would reduce emissions.

President Trump added to the memos last week, signing one himself that formally asks the EPA to use more industry-friendly practices in enforcing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program, a key Clean Air Act program for air quality nationwide.

John Walke, director for clean air at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA is working to implement the policies the Bush administration failed to finish.

“I think Mr. Wehrum has decided this is likely a one-term administration and he’s going to devote his full resources to rolling back clean air, climate and public health protections in the time available to him,” Walke said.

“The most expedient and hasty way to accomplish those rollbacks is through the regular guidance documents that we have seen so far from EPA,” he said. “Rulemakings take time, they require public notice and input and hearings, and Mr. Wehrum and Mr. Pruitt plainly have no patience for those tedious fodders.”

Walke said that, taken together, the memos could allow polluting facilities to greatly increase their emissions.

The EPA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The focus among the memos for environmental and health advocates is the one repealing the “once in, always in” policy, and letting “major” pollution sources reduce their emissions and be regulated as “minor” ones.

A coalition of environmental groups sued the EPA to stop the policy change, arguing that it should have gone through the full regulatory process, including analysis of its environmental impact and an opportunity for public comment. Democratic states joined in with their own lawsuit.

“Instead of prioritizing the health of hard-working Americans, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to let major polluters off the hook. That is unconscionable, and it is illegal,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

“If the ‘Once In, Always In’ policy is rescinded, children in California and around the country — particularly those who must live near the polluting plant or factory — may grow up in an environment with tons of additional hazardous pollutants in the air they breathe. California will not allow that to happen,” Becerra said.

Two environmental groups opposed to the EPA’s move have put out recent analyses of the change, focused on specific areas of the country.

The Environmental Integrity Project looked at 12 industrial plants in the Midwest and concluded they could increase their pollution to 540,000 pounds annually, a fourfold growth.

The Environmental Defense Fund looked at the Houston area, and said that 18 facilities there could increase their emissions to 900,000 pounds a year, two and a half times current levels.

Holmstead said opponents of the Trump administration’s policy are unlikely to prevail. The Supreme Court ruled in the 2015 Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association case that federal agencies can repeal policy memos with other policy memos and don’t have to go through the full regulatory process to do so.

“I think the environmental groups are going to have a real uphill battle trying to get through court that this is somehow improper,” he said. “That really does fly in the face of the Perez decision.”

As for the increase in emissions, Holmstead said environmentalists are wrong. In many cases, the new policies will allow facilities to carry out projects that reduce emissions, or simply operate under a lower paperwork burden.

“They have yet to come up with any real-world examples of how that might happen,” Holmstead said of the scenarios in which pollution might increase. “These reforms are not going to lead to pollution increases.

“I don’t think that there will be a meaningful impact one way or another.”

[The Hill]

Trump golf club in New York asks to hire more foreign workers

One of President Trump’s golf clubs is asking permission from the federal government to hire more foreign workers.

The Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, filed petitions with the Department of Labor seeking permission to hire foreign staffers to be servers and cooks at the property.

BuzzFeed News first reported on the petitions, which were posted on Wednesday.

The club is making the request through the H-2 visa program, which allows American companies to employ foreign workers using temporary work visas, under the condition that no U.S. workers are qualified for or want the jobs.

The property is asking to hire 14 seasonal workers, with work dates starting in mid-May and ending at the end of October. Servers would earn a minimum wage of $15.20 an hour, with the possibility of overtime pay at $22.80 an hour.

Cooks would make $14.36 an hour, with the possibility of overtime at $21.54 an hour.

Trump properties have sought permission to hire foreign workers in the past. His Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., won permission to hire 70 foreign employees last year.

Trump defended the practice during a GOP primary in 2016, saying that it was “very, very hard to get people” for the jobs.

[The Hill]

Trump taunts Jay-Z about black unemployment

President Donald Trump mused about hip-hop icon Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter on Sunday morning, asking whether someone would inform him about the black unemployment rate.

“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” the president wrote on Twitter.

Jay-Z was interviewed on the debut episode of “The Van Jones Show” on CNN on Saturday night. Jones asked the rapper and business mogul whether Trump’s demeanor and actions, including Trump’s reported use of the word “shithole” in reference to African and other countries, were important given the state of the economy.

It’s “not about money at the end of the day,” Jay-Z told Jones. “Money is not — money doesn’t equate to happiness. It doesn’t. That’s missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings, then — that’s the main point.”

The president is correct in saying that black unemployment is at a record low. However, the decline began under former President Barack Obama, and the rate continues to be higher than overall employment, a disparity that has endured for decades.

When asked about the reported “shithole” comment, which came in the context of a discussion of U.S immigration policy, Jay-Z said it was “really hurtful.”

“Everyone feels anger. After the anger, it’s really hurtful because he’s like looking down on a whole population of people,” Jay-Z said. “You are so misinformed because these places have beautiful people and beautiful everything.”

Comparing Trump’s reported remarks to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s private, racist comments in 2013, Jay-Z said, “That’s just how people talk behind close doors.” In a leaked tape published by TMZ.com, Sterling criticized his mistress for being out in public with black people, telling her “not to bring them to my games.”

The NBA stripped Sterling of his ownership and banned him from the league. Despite the harsh penalties, Jay-Z said Sterling’s punishment avoided tough conversations, which in his eyes, can lead to someone like Trump.

“You have sprayed perfume on the trash can. What you do, when you do that is the bugs come and you spray something, and you create a superbug because you don’t take care of the problem,” he said. “You don’t take the trash out, you keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable. As those things grow, you create a superbug.”

That superbug, Jay-Z said, now resides in the Oval Office.

“And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug.”

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump and his allies keep bringing up the low black unemployment rate, as a sign that he isn’t racist.

The black unemployment rate has been steadily falling since 2010 when Barack Obama turned the economy around from one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen, caused by Republican policies of tax cuts and deregulation.

Trump Disbands Business Councils Before They Disband Themselves. Takes Credit.

Some of America’s top CEOs were preparing to issue a statement criticizing the president — so he effectively fired them from a White House council first.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he was ending two business advisory councils amid a stampede of defections and after one of the groups had decided to disband over the president’s much-criticized response to the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va.

A person close to Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum said the group had already told the White House it had resolved to disband and condemn the president’s Tuesday claims that “both sides” were responsible for violence at a white supremacist and neo-Nazi gathering and that some “very fine people” were among the marchers defending a Confederate statue.

The group in a statement presented the decision as mutual with Trump, though EY CEO Mark Weinberger tweeted Wednesday that “we made the right call.” Members of the separate Manufacturing Council — which had already lost eight members this week — were due to hold their own call Wednesday.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, ending the debate.

The split likely won’t change Trump’s agenda — the long-time real estate developer still intends to slash corporate taxes and regulations. And the White House said a separate group of government officials called the American Technology Council, which met with top Sillicon Valley executives and Trump in June, will keep working. Still, the break-up of the two high-profile CEO groups shows increasing pressure on business leaders to distance themselves from the White House and could hurt Trump’s standing with the pro-business, establishment wing of voters and donors in the Republican Party.

“There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity,” JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement Wednesday after Trump disbanded the Strategic and Policy Forum to which he belonged. Dimon had weighed in on the events in Charlottesville over the weekend but had not criticized the president directly.

“It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart,” he said.

Executives historically have clamored to belong to White House business councils, which give them an opportunity to pitch the president behind closed doors.

Merck’s Kenneth Frazier — the first CEO to announce he was leaving Trump’s manufacturing council this week — repeatedly pressed Trump in private on reforming tax laws. Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris was initially granted a private sit-down with EPA head Scott Pruitt as the agency weighed a key regulation, though the meeting was trimmed down to a brief greeting.

In return, the executives served as surrogates for a White House trying to sell its pro-business message. Council members regularly flanked the president at a series of announcements and executive order signings. Executives like Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison told reporters they were optimistic about Trump’s effect on the economy. Dow donated about $1 million for the president’s inauguration.

The corporate backlash started Monday with Merck’s Frazier — the only African-American CEO on Trump’s manufacturing council — who said he was quitting “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” Within a day, the CEOs of Under Armour and Intel said they were leaving too.

The president on Tuesday called them “grandstanders” on Twitter and lashed out at Merck specifically. He claimed the defections wouldn’t hurt him.

“For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. However, no other CEOs publicly stepped forward to join the council, and five more leaders said they were leaving.

On Tuesday — before Trump’s news conference but after he took heat Saturday for blaming “many sides” for violence in Charlottesville — Morrison of Campbell’s said she planned to remain on the manufacturing council. Social media campaigns in response called the company a “Soup Nazi” in reference to the television show Seinfeld; another circulated altered photos of fake Campbell’s products called “Cream of Complicity” and “Swastika Soup.”

On Wednesday, Morrison said she couldn’t serve on the council any longer. “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Morrison said in a statement.

Others also flipped their stances. “The President’s most recent statements equating those who are motivated by race-based hate with those who stand up against hatred is unacceptable and has changed our decision to participate in the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council,” Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said on Wednesday — less than 24 hours after telling reporters he planned to stay on the council so J&J would have a voice in high-level discussions.

Activists said the overnight campaigns and threats of boycotts motivated executives. Progressive groups have also pushed payment processing companies to cut ties with hate groups, collecting thousands of signatures on petitions, though Discover, Visa and Mastercard told POLITICO they had limited ability to force banks to cut off merchants conducting legal businesses.

“The collapse of the CEO councils is not due to an outbreak of conscience,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Instead, it is public pressure — pressure for the CEOs to evidence a measure of decency — that is driving them off the councils. That’s not exactly the most inspiring example of moral leadership. No profiles in courage here.”

Silicon Valley executives such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook also met with Trump in June through the administration’s American Technology Council, which is technically made up of government employees. Still, activists like Weissman are calling on the affiliated executives to condemn Trump’s comments too.

Until this week, Trump had spent months praising the same executives who are now rebuking him.

“I want to thank these great business leaders,” Trump said in February, when Merck’s Frazier, J&J’s Gorsky, Campbell’s Morrison and other CEO advisers joined him for a signing ceremony on an executive order on regulatory reform. “They’re helping us sort out what’s going on, because … it’s been disastrous for business. This is going to be a place for business to do well and to thrive.”

[Politico]

During Made in America Week, White House Defends Imported Trump Products

As the White House kicks off its Made in America Week, shining a spotlight on products manufactured domestically, President Donald Trump’s spokesman was forced Monday to defend the fact that goods bearing the Trump name are frequently produced abroad.

Made in America Week — continuing a trend of themed weeks, such as Infrastructure Week and Energy Week — saw the White House hosting a product showcase featuring a variety of items manufactured in the U.S., the president delivering a speech encouraging domestic manufacturing and a ceremony commissioning the latest American-built Navy aircraft carrier.

But asked at Monday’s press briefing about whether the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump brands would commit “to stop manufacturing wares abroad,” press secretary Sean Spicer shifted the focus to Trump’s attempts to cultivate other companies’ domestic production efforts.

“I think what’s really important is the president’s agenda — regulatory relief and tax relief — are focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here,” said Spicer.

On the matter of Trump-branded items, he added, “I can tell you that in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country.”

Questions about Trump products’ creation and assembly abroad have dogged the businessman-turned-president since first announcing his America-first ambitions at the launch of his candidacy for president over two years ago.

During a memorable campaign stop in August 2016, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton held up a Trump-branded tie made China as she assailed the Republican nominee for suits stitched in Mexico, furniture created in Turkey and picture frames made in India.

But asked at Monday’s press briefing about whether the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump brands would commit “to stop manufacturing wares abroad,” press secretary Sean Spicer shifted the focus to Trump’s attempts to cultivate other companies’ domestic production efforts.

“I think what’s really important is the president’s agenda — regulatory relief and tax relief — are focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here,” said Spicer.

On the matter of Trump-branded items, he added, “I can tell you that in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country.”

Questions about Trump products’ creation and assembly abroad have dogged the businessman-turned-president since first announcing his America-first ambitions at the launch of his candidacy for president over two years ago.

During a memorable campaign stop in August 2016, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton held up a Trump-branded tie made China as she assailed the Republican nominee for suits stitched in Mexico, furniture created in Turkey and picture frames made in India.

Trump shrugged off the criticism during the campaign, telling ABC News that Clinton didn’t need to raise the issue because he readily took ownership of the foreign items, chalking up the decisions as a financial one, given the costs of U.S. manufacturing. He pointed to the nature of the economy and blamed then-President Barack Obama’s policies for forcing his hand.

“Unfortunately, my ties are made in China, and I will say this, the hats — Make America great again — I searched long and hard to find somebody that made the hats in this country,” Trump told ABC News in June 2016.

“I pay a lot more money. It is a very hard thing, and it’s because they devalue their currency,” he added, referring to alleged Chinese efforts to make it less expensive to buy goods from the country.

Trump partially chalked up the production imbalance to “unfair trade practices” as he spoke at the product showcase Monday afternoon. Touting job creation in the manufacturing sector since he took office, he promised that the country would “once again rediscover our heritage as a manufacturing nation.”

“We’re here to celebrate American manufacturing and showcase all the products of the 50 states made in the U.S.A,” he said. “Remember in the old days, they used to have ‘Made in the U.S.A.’? ‘Made in America’ but ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ — we’re going to start doing that again. We’re going to put that brand on our product because it means it’s the best.”

Comments about the Trump Organization’s business efforts by the president and his advisers have waned since his election, particularly as critics decry what they view as potential conflicts of interest. Spicer expressed discomfort in fielding the query on the topic Monday.

“Again, it’s not appropriate me for to stand up here and comment about a business, and I believe that’s a little out of bounds,” he said, as the line of questioning wound down at the press briefing. “But again, I would go back to the president’s broader goal, which is to create investment here, to bring back the manufacturing base.”

[ABC News]

Trump Makes Up 45,000 New Mining Jobs

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that the nation added 45,000 mining jobs recently — but there’s scant data to back that up. One thing there is evidence for: Only 800 coal mining jobs have been created during his tenure.

“In Pennsylvania, two weeks ago, they opened a mine, the first mine that was opened in decades….Well, we picked up 45,000 mining jobs in a very short period of time,” Trump said during an event pegged to American manufacturing. “Everybody was saying, ‘Well, you won’t get any mining jobs,’ we picked up 45,000 mining jobs. Well, the miners are very happy with Trump and with Pence, and we’re very proud of that.”

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that the nation added 45,000 mining jobs recently — but there’s scant data to back that up. One thing there is evidence for: Only 800 coal mining jobs have been created during his tenure.

“In Pennsylvania, two weeks ago, they opened a mine, the first mine that was opened in decades….Well, we picked up 45,000 mining jobs in a very short period of time,” Trump said during an event pegged to American manufacturing. “Everybody was saying, ‘Well, you won’t get any mining jobs,’ we picked up 45,000 mining jobs. Well, the miners are very happy with Trump and with Pence, and we’re very proud of that.”

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to bring back coal jobs and attacked Hillary Clinton for turning her back on the industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates there are roughly 50,800 coal mining jobs nationwide, 800 of which have been added since Trump took office. (The six months before that, under President Barack Obama’s administration, 1,300 coal jobs were added.)

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Trump’s numbers. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt made a similar claim speaking about all mining and logging jobs earlier this year, earning a PolitiFact ruling of “mostly false.”

BLS data estimates the nation has added roughly 41,500 new mining and logging jobs in the first six months of 2017, but just 1,000 of them are mining (not including oil and gas mining jobs, which account for another couple thousand.)

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The coal industry often creates spinoff jobs as mining towns need doctors, schools and diners, for instance. There are notably many truck drivers, electricians and other professionals working with coal companies whose livelihood depends on coal production, but these jobs are not counted in federal BLS data on coal mining, according to Terry Headley, communications director for the American Coal Council.

The Pennsylvania mine opening that Trump touted on Monday is expected to create 70 jobs.

[NBC News]

Trump Takes Credit for 1 Million Jobs. Not True.

President Trump proclaimed Thursday that he has created “more than 1 million private sector jobs.”

That’s not true.

Official government data from the Labor Department show only 601,000 private sector jobs have been added since January, when Trump took office. Trump is trying to take credit for far more.

Trump was talking up his jobs record as he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement — a deal he described as a jobs-killer. Here’s the president’s exact quote on jobs:

“Before we discuss the Paris Accord, I’d like to begin with an update on our tremendous, absolutely tremendous economic progress since Election Day on November 8th. The economy has started to come back and very, very rapidly. We’ve added $3.3 trillion in stock market value to our economy and more than a million private sector jobs.”

Notice that Trump specifically said “private sector jobs,” a term that excludes government jobs at the local, state or federal level.

CNNMoney’s Trump Jobs Tracker gives the president credit for 594,000 jobs so far. That’s because we’re counting both private and public jobs, and there have been a lot of state government job losses since the start of the year.

So where in the world does Trump get his 1 million figure?

Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, says the statistic comes from the ADP employment report. In other words, the the White House is ignoring its own government report.

“I’m standing by that if you add up the ADP numbers, you would get to the number the president put in his speech today,” Cohn told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The latest ADP report came out Thursday — the day of Trump’s speech — and it only measures private sector jobs. It shows 1.2 million private sector jobs added since the start of the year. But there are two big catches.

First, the only way to get to Trump’s figure is to include jobs added in January. Trump was only president for 11 days in January. It’s unusual to give a new president credit for that month.

Second, ADP is just an estimate. It’s not the real data.

ADP is a company that prints (or direct deposits) paychecks for about 24 million Americans. A few days before the official Labor Department jobs data comes out, ADP puts out an estimate of how many jobs were added or lost based on what ADP is seeing in the hiring and firing patterns of companies that it works with.

For years economists and Wall Street investors have kept an eye on the ADP data, but they don’t consider it the official jobs data. The ADP report is often widely different from the government data. That’s because there are over 153 million Americans working today and ADP only gets a good look at the paychecks and employment of 24 million of them.

The latest government report on American jobs came out Friday morning. It shows that U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3%, the lowest level since 2001. That’s good news, but the bad news for Trump is that job growth is slowing.

[CNN]

 

Trump Says He Created 600,000 Jobs. Not True

“We’ve created over 600,000 jobs already over a very short period of time and it’s going to really start catching on now,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House, flanked by his top advisers and the CEOs who are members of his Business Advisory Council.

He repeated the statement later at a press conference: “Already we’ve created more than almost [sic] 600,000 jobs.”

Official government data does not back up that claim.

According to CNNMoney’s Trump Jobs Tracker, 317,000 jobs have been created since Trump took office. The president is trying to take credit for nearly double that number of jobs.

The ultimate authority on how many jobs are created (or lost) each month is the US Labor Department. CNNMoney’s 317,000 figure includes how many jobs the Labor Department reported were created in February (219,000) and March (98,000).

A White House spokesman said Trump is including all the job added in January as well (216,000). Trump was only in office for 11.5 days that month.

But even if you give him all of the gains for January, that still only brings the tally to 533,000 jobs created so far in 2017.

The math doesn’t quite add up to 600,000.

Trump likes to count job promises

There’s ongoing debate over whether a president should take credit for creating jobs at all. Most of the hiring is done by the private sector. But there’s a case to be made that government policies on taxes, regulations, trade, etc. do influence whether businesses want to hire or not.

“The president’s comments touting the administration’s economic record accurately reflect the growing optimism about his policies and the future outlook for the country,” a White House spokesman told CNNMoney.

Trump has frequently said he’s influenced companies like Ford, Charter Communications, General Motors and ExxonMobil to hire more workers, even though some of the businesses themselves refuse to give Trump credit for their hiring decisions.

Then there’s the fact that some of the jobs these companies are touting as new hires are part of projects that were in the works long before Trump was elected. (CNNMoney has a running fact check of these announcements here).

Trump vs. Obama

The bottom line is: Yes, business and consumer optimism has picked up since Trump won the election. That is likely a factor in some hiring decisions by businesses. But the reality is the economy has added an average of 178,000 jobs a month so far this year. That’s very close to, and even slightly lower than, the average last year (187,000 a month) when President Obama was in office.

Trump Wrongly Takes Credit for Planned $1.33 Billion Toyota Spending

President Donald Trump took credit for Toyota Motor Corp. investing $1.33 billion in an existing U.S. factory, championing spending by a Japanese automaker he’s blasted for building a plant in Mexico.

The outlays in Georgetown, Kentucky, aren’t new — they’ve been in the works for years. But the way they’re being marketed is. Instead of emphasizing cost efficiency, Toyota is highlighting ample spending and the previously announced addition of 700 jobs. The president has taken notice.

Toyota’s announcement “is further evidence that manufacturers are now confident that the economic climate has greatly improved under my administration,” Trump said in the automaker’s statement Monday.

The bigger the U.S. investment the better right now for Toyota. Trump singled out the company in January for its plan to build a Corolla small-car factory in Mexico. As Toyota’s North American Chief Executive Officer Jim Lentz discussed setting up autonomous- and connected-car business units in the U.S. with Trump last month, the president cut him off and said the company needed to “build those new plants here.”

While Toyota is pleased Trump recognized the significance of its investment, according to Wil James, the Kentucky factory’s president, the company started preparing for the redesigned Camry that will be built at the plant during Barack Obama’s administration.

“We’ve been working on this Camry now for over three years, so this is not something that’s just brand new and picked up most recently,” James said in an interview Monday on Bloomberg Television.

As part of the $10 billion that Toyota plans to invest in the U.S. over the next five years, the company’s spending in Kentucky paves the way for output of the redesigned Camry sedan later this year. The car will be the first in North America to adopt the Toyota New Global Architecture system for designing, engineering and manufacturing vehicles.

In describing the system referred to as TNGA in March 2015, Toyota said it was aiming to reduce the amount of spending required to prepare the production line for a new model by about half. The Toyota City, Japan-based company is avoiding any emphasis of the frugal benefits of TNGA with regards to its plans in Georgetown.

“This is the largest investment in our plant’s history,” James said in the statement. “This major overhaul will enable the plant to stay flexible and competitive, further cementing our presence in Kentucky.”

Toyota will spend the $1.33 billion over the next two or three years, James said in a press conference at the Georgetown plant. It’s only after the money is spent — including on more flexible equipment in the welding shop and elsewhere — that TNGA’s expected cost savings will kick in, he said.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin predicted the state’s best year ever for capital investments by big companies during the event at the plant.

(h/t Bloomberg)

Reality

Toyota made the announcement in May 2014.

Trump Winery Seeks Even More Foreign Workers This Season

A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s son has applied to hire foreign workers to pick grapes after the company was unable to find U.S. citizens who want the job.

Trump Vineyard Estates, better known as Trump Winery, has asked to bring in 29 workers this season through the federal H-2A visa program, The Daily Progress reported.

The Charlottesville-area winery is owned by Eric Trump, whose father has called on businesses to hire Americans.

The H-2A program enables agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or other temporary or seasonal services. To apply, employers say they’ve been unable to find American citizens to fill the jobs. At least three other local vineyards also applied to hire foreign workers.

“It’s difficult to find people,” said Libby Whitley, an attorney who has worked with employers, including Trump Winery.

Trump Vineyard Estates had initially applied for six foreign workers in December. Two months later, the company applied for 23 more. Both job orders for Trump Vineyard Estates say the primary tasks include planting and cultivating vines, adding grow tubes and pruning grape vines.

H-2A workers and U.S. workers in corresponding employment must be paid a certain rate — $10.72 an hour for vineyard farm workers in Virginia this year.

Whitely said she assumed her company would be flooded with people applying for the jobs because of all the media coverage Trump Winery has received for using the H-2A program.

“Guess how many applicants we had? … 13,” she said. “And they were all from places like the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria. We did not have one American worker apply on (the first job order).”

Several people have sent emails to show they are outraged that Trump winery is hiring foreigners, Whitley said.

“I qualify every one of those responses and I say, ‘Are you interested in the job? If you are, please get in touch with us immediately,’” Whitley said.

Trump Winery didn’t respond to a request for comment.

(h/t Denver Post)

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